Wednesday, February 28, 2007
A WFDW Preview and More Rambling About Bread
How to turn some IKEA stuff into a cool (and cheap!) bathroom vanity over at Modern in MN.
I'm about ready to plunk No-Knead Bread loaf #3 into the oven as I type, to accompany tonights' WFDW pick, Escarole and Orzo Soup with Turkey Parmesan Meatballs.
For this current batch of NKB, I'm using Gold Medal Harvest King flour which I hadn't ever seen before but purchased because it was the only kind of bread flour they had at SuperTarget. I'm curious to see what I get, because it seems like the choice of flour may be a make it or break it kind of decision when it comes to this recipe. While NKB #1 using King Arthur bread flour was fantastic and drew my raves, NKB #2 using regular all purpose flour was awful. It had a drastically different texture than the first loaf, lacking the lovely tenderness of crumb and big holes that made me a NKB believer. It was tough and nasty and most of it went in the trash. So whether this was due to the difference in flours or my addition of another 1/4 tsp of salt, I'm not sure, but I'm glad to have been able to replenish my stash of King Arthur bread flour today just in case.
I'll have the recipe reviews tomorrow. In the mean time, I'll enjoy watching LOST and, since I have so far today neglected to walk PupCake, I'll spend the hour that Top Design won't be taking up sweating on the Nordic Track. Gotta work off all those bread experiments, you know...
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Crazy or Cutting Edge?
I did mention it's not a "regular" house, right?
Without a doubt, there are a lot of people who would say (and do say) that the fact that we have motorcycles parked more or less in our living room is a little crazy. And when I tell them that having motorcycles in our living room was a big part of what went into the design of our house, I might as well be a green-skinned alien. A motorcycle loving, green skinned alien, that is.
Because you know what kind of bad people motorcycle people are, right?
And even worse, what kind of bad people motorcycle chicks are, right?
But it turns out we're not the only peeps who love their wheels so much they feel the need to keep them close by. Via this article in the New York Times, I bring you the European version of Casa Splatgirl:
Switch to the English version and check out the details.
Alas...the penthouse is sold :)
Just think of all the time and energy we could have saved ourselves if we had been able to buy such a place instead of building one ourselves.
Monday, February 26, 2007
I Think I Could Win an Award
This is the south wall of my studio. Originally, I had left it white and blank, with the intent to use it as a design wall for larger scale paint and fabric projects by rigging up some kind of temporary hanging system. But I just couldn't cope with it's whiteness.
Or it's blankness.
So I had to go and put something useful on it and IKEA's ANTONIUS wall organizing stuff, along with their KLUDD noticeboard, seemed the perfect solution.
I love how the ANTONIUS thing has all kinds of little plastic boxes and bins and clips that fit right onto the board, and that hook rail is just the bomb. Because I HEART hooks. And it makes just the most perfect place to store all the things that I use on a regular basis and want to have handy, along with some arty and crafty stuff that I just enjoy looking at. Because you never know when some crazy idea might pop into my head and demand to get born and I wouldn't want to have to go frantically searching for a paintbrush or my sketchbook, lest it become hypoxic and suffocate.
The idea, that is.
So, along with the wall-o-deliciousness, I also got around to getting an actual light fixture to replace the keyless (i.e. light bulb screwed into a socket) fixture that had been there over the sink all this time. This one is IKEA's KRYSSBO and I think it's fab in a girly, pink walled room kind of way.
And yes, that's and IKEA mirror, along with their DOMSJO sink and LAXAN sink stand that I've told you about before.
The only problem with all of this progress is that I still need to actually paint these two walls, because that white friends, is just primer.
Which means everything is going to have to come back down again.
So much for organized.
Friday, February 23, 2007
This was a project that I started working on quite a while ago, and, feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of the task, gave up on. And while I'm happy to now have that saga a little more safe and sound and closer to my blogging home, I haven't decided whether I'll continue to post to it or not being that so much of what would be current "house" content is worthy S. C. material as well.
Anyway, everything is still there on LiveModern, too, but that site has become such a depressing wasteland in recent months that I just couldn't stand the idea of continuing to blog there. Sad, really, because it used to be such a fun and useful place (despite frequently being unbearably slow). Server and format changes seem only to have made it worse, and I finally reached the end of my rope with that.
So, if you've never taken the trip to housebuilding land via my sidebar link before and are at all interested in the play by play of building ones' own house, the one in which Boy and I now live, swoop on over and check it out.
Then, in other news,
Here's the sad little picture of the Chinese New Year's cake from last night:
the verdict? Not good. I don't think I steamed it enough, despite having let it go 15 minutes longer than the recipe said. It was still kind of chalky and weird tasting toward the middle, which I assume was because there was still raw rice flour there. You can see the steamed but unfried piece there in the background. Boy and I agreed it needed to go into the trash. Boo.
I've got a loose rendition of this on the menu for tonight, along with a date at the bookstore for a little periodical stock-up and then we'll settle in for movies and, if I'm a very good girl, popcorn.
Everyone is all up in a bundle because it's supposed to snow a bunch this weekend. Let it, I say, because I've got more fabric deliciousness to stay home and play with:
Have a great weekend!
Thursday, February 22, 2007
Reporting on WFDW
Everything in moderation, people, everything in moderation. Even so, I did completely love the folding stool seats painted up all cutesy like and that could hang on the wall when not being used. I think they should sell them to me, or at least put them on Ebay so I can bid on them.
Then, on to our WFDW menu. It was a Boy choice week and the Irish Beef Stew he chose turned out to be really yummy. More of a soup, than a stew really, but still yummy.
And you can see some of the latest loaf of No Knead bread there in the background. The verdict? Regular flour and 1/4 tsp more salt= not as good.
And here's a pic of the uncooked Chinese New Year's Cake, aka Neen Gow, which we haven't actually tried any of yet because I didn't realize until I set about making it yesterday afternoon that it needed to sit for a day before it would be ready to eat. So steamed it was and sat it has, and next it gets sliced up, dipped in egg and fried. Not sure about that whole deal, but the other glutinous rice flour product I'm familiar with, sesame balls, I totally love, so hopes are high. Full report tomorrow on that one.
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Spring Must Be Springing
Now, let me give you something pretty and happy to make you feel good before you read on:
Then, there's just a few things I need to say.
I have had it up to here with ineptitude today. Does no one bother to know, understand and give a crap about how they do their job anymore? I don't care if you're making $10 an hour or $100, and for the record I've had horrible experiences with service at both ends of the salary spectrum lately. WAKE UP AND GET A CLUE, people. And yes, cashier at Michaels who can't be bothered to utter a simple thanks, despite the fact that I am polite, I smile I greet you warmly and I thank YOU, I am referring to you just as much as I am referring to the stupidly rude, ugly, fat receptionist/appointment person at my dental office. You lady, have gotten WAY more chances than you deserve . I'm done with nice and I refuse to ever thank you again for either not doing your job or making a circus of pretending to do it while you gasp for breath just sitting at your desk.
Hello Twin Citians! Is it just me or does the StarTribune seem to have become embarrassingly bad over the last couple of years? Lately, it's pretty much unreadable as far as I am concerned, and I'm pissed. Having a decent newspaper is one of the things that defines a place as civilized and "normal" for me. Hell, if we've no longer got decent copy to save our lives, we all might as well move to south Florida, home of some of the worst newspaper writing and editing on earth. Really, though, it's not like I am some sort of English major kind of critic (which I'm certain is more than evident given what goes on here at Splatgirl Creates). So I think that if I'm noticing, it's got to be pretty bad.
If I hear one more person use the word "silicon" in place of "silicone" I think I'm going to scream.
What has happened to Max Factor cosmetics? No one, and I mean NO ONE carries any of their products anymore. I did find them at drugstore.com, and the website still exists but they seem to have absolutely zero brick and mortar presence. Figures, since they make one product that I really, really like and that I SO don't want to have to go shopping about for a replacement brand for.
No-Knead Bread, v. 1.1 is underway, baking as I type. I upped the salt by 1/4 tsp. and used regular flour instead of bread flour. I noticed a difference as soon as I mixed it up, so I'm curious about whether or not these changes will be detectable in the finished product. I also had the sense to let it ferment someplace other than on the giant heat-sink that is my concrete countertop, so it smelled and looked quite a bit different than my last batch when I turned it out of the bowl. I'm thinking this will be for the better. Stay tuned for the post-baking follow-up and taste test. I'm looking forward to enjoying it with tonights' WFDW entree, Irish Beef Stew.
I also happened across this recipe, and since it's Chinese New Year I thought I'd give it a try for dessert. Here's hoping that a little sugar and carb will help me with a little attitude adjustment!
Check back tomorrow for the results, cooking and otherwise :)
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
I Look at Fabric Porn
Anyway, I broke down and ordered some stuff from one of my favorite fabric porn sites the other day, and it arrived in all it's deliciousness just now:
I can't tell you how often I check in there to visit the fabrics, and more often than not I have to leave without buying anything because I just can't make up my mind. Needless to say, after delaying gratification for so long, I am seriously giddy and I can't wait to whip this stuff up into something fabulous, dog collars or otherwise. The best news is there's even more yumminess due to arrive from this place any minute!
And did you know that you can get pretty much any Alexander Henry fabric in the entire universe here? I can't tell you how happy it makes me to know that some of my absolute favorite prints are available all in one place and at any time of the day or night. Oh the joys of having ones' credit card number memorized!
Monday, February 19, 2007
Late to the Party
I admit that I was highly skeptical.
I admit that I thought it had to be a bunch of hype.
And I admit that that is entirely because I am a bread snob.
You see, I've baked a loaf or two in my day, and I know how much joy even a limp and less than delicious loaf of bread can bring when you've poked and prodded and coached it along for a day or more, and when you're new to the whole experience of the magic of flour, water and yeast. It's like a child by the time it's finished baking, and darn it if you're not going to love it no matter what because the process is just that satisfying.
So I figured it had to be a case of bread baking newbie starry eyes. Because how could bread possibly be good when it requires almost no effort?
It really is all they say it is people, hype or no.
My world has shifted.
The No Knead Bread has realigned the planets for me.
First of all, it's ridiculously easy. Like two minutes worth of work TOTAL kind of easy. And given this ridiculously small amount of work, the recipe turns out a ridiculously delicious loaf of bread. The kind of bread that I'm always on the lookout for and that I get crabby when I can't get.
It's not just any bread, friends. It's the kind of bread that I have, until now, found it nearly impossible to make at home despite the fact that I have "the" equipment, "the" ingredients and the artisan bread baking cookbooks. It's that deliciously chewy, European style bread with an amazing, loose and fluffy interior framed by the perfect, crackly crust.
Now, in all seriousness, I think the whole idea of baking bread in a cast iron pot is absolutely genius. If you're familiar with bread baking at all, you know that typically, recipes for traditional, rustic breads ask you bake them on a stone. If you're a fanatic, you even go so far as to purchase a stone hearth kit for your oven. And many recipes ask you to mist the interior of the oven with water for the first half hour or so of baking, which, along with the heat-retaining characteristics of the baking stone, help to develop the perfect, crispy-chewy crust. Because with European-style bread, it's A LOT about the crust.
Anyway, enter the genius concept of the cast iron pot and lid, which do the same thing as the stone and the mist except all in one nice little package and without having to put your head in a 450 oven repeatedly. The cast iron holds the heat right up next to the dough (like the stone) and the unusually wet dough releases lots of steam while it bakes, creating humidity which is conveniently held in by having the lid on the pot. So basically, the simple and very useful in its own right cast iron pot, is turned into a perfect little artisan bread oven.
Ok, so I'm done raving, but the bread is really freakin' good. It's not perfect, but it's miles and miles ahead of where I was and it's ripe for tweaking. And conveniently, there has already been tweaking aplenty. Because, as I said, I'm a little late to the party.
So go bake a loaf, even if you've never baked bread or even considered it and then tell us what you think. I promise you won't be disappointed. Your world may even shift.
And for the record, I used King Arthur Bread Flour and SAF brand instant yeast. Now, on to the tweaking...
Friday, February 16, 2007
Chicken Parmesan ala Boy!
Don't forget to stir the pasta...(pssst! The real pro's do it with one hand in their pocket)
Saute the chicken...
And plate it up for the grinning, happy Girl!
Watching all of this, you would never have known that Boy is not a cook because he whipped it out just like a pro and it was really, really tasty. Miles better than any chicken parmesan I've had at a restaurant, plus, he did it all WITHOUT A RECIPE! Hurray for Boy!
I told him I would happily eat that once a week if he's cooking :)
Then, a few days late, the glorious $40 TV stand:
I love it, and M-Ah is thanking me for creating another perfect kitty hideout spot :)
Labels: cooking food building stuff
Thursday, February 15, 2007
WFDW: Valentine Edition
First, Todd is improving. Better hair, better overall, but still a little herky-jerky annoying with the delivery. But thanks for letting us shop somewhere other than PDC. And for the record, I loved, like in a want to have one for my backyard kind of way, Goil's cabana. It was FABULOUS.
Second. The sound bites have not been kind to the skinny-bitchy club.
Dear Margaret. No one is fooled. A pretentious, artificial snob who says rude, bitchy things with a fake smile on her face is still a pretentious, artificial snob. Deliver the criticism, yes, but lose the passive aggressive fake nice before I barf, please.
And will someone PLEEZE tell Kelly that this is reality TV, not the runway, and that runway couture anywhere other than the runway, particularly when it's paired with runway hair and runway makeup, looks like a Halloween costume.
Now that we have that out of the way, here's the food porn:
Grilled Ham and Cheese Sandwiches with Curly Fries
Molten Chocolate Cake with Fudge Sauce and Vanilla Ice Cream
Ahh, the molten chocolate cake. Perhaps it has become a dessert cliche, but it does pack a ton of bang for the dessert buck for both cook and diner, because it's all of four ingredients, takes five minutes to throw together and is insanely delicious. Plus they're highly do ahead-able. I've even frozen the unbaked batter in its' ramekins before.
I've tried a few different recipes, and I like this one the best. Make the sauce as well, but leave out the peppermint extract.
The kind of tricky thing about the molten chocolate cake is getting the perfect degree of doneness. You want to bake it just enough so that the whole thing holds together when you turn it out of the ramekin and onto the plate, but not so much as to lose all of the delicious moltenness that is the whole point of the thing. Because there is nothing worse than a molten chocolate cake without any molten.
So the key to the whole thing is really to know your ramekins. With this recipe, I divided the batter between six IKEA ramekins and baked the refrigerated cakes for 15 minutes at the instructed 450 degree temp and got an absolutely perfect result. Obviously, bigger or thicker walled ramekins= more baking, and unrefrigerated batter= less baking. You want the tops of the cakes to puff up a bit but still be jiggly when you shake them.
I hope you all had a nice day. The tiny wrench in our works was that Boy arrived home with a bag full of groceries and the intent to cook ME dinner. Now, Boy has cooked for me a grand total of THREE times in the nearly decade that we have been together so it didn't even occur to me that I should have announced my plan for the evenings' activities to him. Nor did it occur to me that I should have asked him if he was planning something....because he just doesn't do that whole cooking thing, like ever. And since I didn't get the memo, I had dinner all prepped and ready to go on the fire when he came home.
So anyway, he's at the stove tonight with my dinner surprise, and don't worry, there WILL be pictures!
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Food of Love
What is more fun that a big pile of cookies? I whipped these up yesterday and will deliver them to my neighbor kids today. It's a big pile of cookies because there are a lot of them.
Kids I mean.
I hope they have as much fun eating these as I did making them, and I hope their mom doesn't want to kill me for giving them so much sugar.
Unless I am to be swept away on some kind of mystery date which I am as yet unaware of, we're planning on spending the evening at home. In the name of the holiday, I'll be violating the What's For Dinner Wednesday new food rule to cook Boy his favorite things: Grilled ham and cheese sandwich (or if I decide to lose my mind, I'll batter and fry it ala Monte Christo) curly fries from the freezer (one of my only concessions to processed food, ever) and molten chocolate cakes with vanilla ice cream for dessert. He's so easy to please, which I guess is better than having some crazy gourmand that I have to spend hours and hours over a hot range to impress :)
With cosmic heart cookies from sent from me to you, Happy Valentines Day everyone!
Labels: cooking food cookies
Monday, February 12, 2007
Knittymama wants to know about the fabric for the dog bed. The top is lightweight uphosltery fabric, and the bottom is denim (Chartreuse denim! Be still my heart!) PupCake is not a huge digger, but if you were worried about the durability of your fabric of choice, you could bond it to some kind of sturdy underlining fabric with fusible web...
And to Mona, with your lovely and flattering compliments. Thank you. I'm blushing. I've always thought of my taste more along the lines of ghetto-fabulous than exquisite, but I'll take it :) And I'm glad you enjoy the pics! There is just so much out there in internetland that I am inspired by, so I figure the least I can do is try to pay it forward.
And really, thanks everyone so much for your comments and readership. Today marks the first official post of year three of Splatgirl Creates and I've loved every minute with you :)
For the last few months, ever since the arrival of the BIG TV, I've been looking around and keeping an eye out for something to put it on. It sits in a cubby so as not to announce it's presence unless one is in front of it to, say, watch it, (because as you may know, big TV's are big ugly) but it needed a little bit of a height boost. Enough to raise it up off the floor some but without being so tall as to outgrow the confines of the cubby. Not suprisingly, everything I found was either ugly, too tall, or too expensive, so the big TV stayed on the floor.
And I pondered.
And then decided I was just going to have to make something myself. Because certainly I could do better than the $400+ sort of ugly and not quite right stuff I was finding.
You see, years ago I learned from watching Christopher Lowell that you can make pretty much anything with plywood. He could execute the most amazing transformations... from nothing to fabulous with just a few hundred bucks, some plywood, fabric and a few accessories.
Duly inspired, this led to some of my first adventures in building stuff (who knew there would be whole house in my future!). Armed with his tips, I built a whole room full of storage/seating benches with upholstered seats, a corner TV shelf cubby, and even a built-in buffet cabinet that housed my microwave and a trash pull-out.
It was fabulous, and went a long way toward solving my problems with the half a postage stamp-sized kitchen and eating area in my former house. If you saw this stuff, you'd never believe how inexpensively it was done but I know it was one of the things that sold that house to the first person that looked at it.
Fast forward to today, and me needing a TV bench (along with a slew of other things which probably goes without saying). I wanted something simple and chunky and most importantly, just tall enough to raise the TV up a bit and make one more thing for me to have to vacuum under.
Here it is in a still-needs-some-sanding-and-stain/varnish state. I actually borrowed this design from myself, in my head, where I've been dreaming up the custom-sized and cool looking dining table I am in need of. I used a triple thickness of 3/4" finish-grade plywood for the top and some 3" square stock for the legs. I glued the layers together and put a few screws in from the bottom to hold everything together snugly. I think I spent $40 on materials which is quite an improvement over the $300 or $400+ I was thinking I'd have to spend, and hopefully I'll get it finished up today and be able to show you the finished product at home under the TV tomorrow...
Here's a hint: If you don't have a saw or a means to haul sheets of ply on your own, you can have them cut to size by the nice guys at the home improvement store. Once your wood is cut to size, you can make almost anything under the sun using just a drill, some screws, wood glue and a few other odds and ends depending on what kind of finish you like.
Thursday, February 08, 2007
Getting My Organized On
Well, I'm all about doing something about things that bug me, and I've been pecking away at getting things under control in there ever since.
Behold, my cheery and (mostly) organized studio:
Even Little Kitty approves. That purple velvet chair is her favorite place to nap and no doubt she's thanking me for digging it out from under a random pile of stuff. Stuff which apparently was not enough an obstacle to keep her from her beloved nest. I vacuumed enough hair off the stupid thing to cover two entire cats. And that's my old and almost non-working sewing machine down there in the corner. I got it for a high school graduation gift, and I can't decide if I can bear to part with it even though some salesperson told me once that it couldn't be fixed. I still think she was just trying to get me to buy a new one...
Do you see? I even got around to hanging some things on the wall!
Isn't part of the fun of having art supplies getting to revel in all their crafty deliciousness? I wanted some way to be able to have everything out and easily accessible yet still nice and neat and inspiring looking. And because I'm always looking for excuses to feed my borosilicate glass addiction, I decided that beakers would be the perfect organizational solution for some of my previously stashed away loot. I ordered these online, by the case from Indigo Instruments which also makes them rather dirt cheap. Or at least inexpensive, particularly considering the joy I feel when I survey the colorful union of beaker and crayon. I got three sizes, 250, 400 and 600ml, and found that the 250ml size is just about perfect for a handful of any pen shaped things. Big handfulls work well in the 400ml size, and the 600's work great for bigger items. Plus now I can do chemistry experiments in my spare time.
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
Dog Swag, Part Two
Let's hear it for the new, improved was-ugly dog bed:
Doesn't that fabric just make you happy? I may have to go and buy some more, because it was dirt cheap and I love it. This project cost me all of about twenty five bucks, $17.99 of which went into purchasing actual, ugly bed. I'd say that's a significant improvement over the expensive yet still not so nice ones at the pet store or the ones from the frou frou dog store that cost way, way more than a dog bed should. Because that seriously eats into my handbag budget, people, and that is BAD.
PupCake seems to dig it. He was laying on his other, still ugly and yet to be hip-ly made over Costco dog bed when I finished this one and put it out for him, and he immediately got up and switched, as if to say, "tank wroo mudder. I lubs dis swank noo bed!"
P.S. If you want to recover your own Costco dog bed, you'll need a total of about three yards of 60" fabric and a long zipper, velcro or some buttons for the closure.
Labels: dog stuff
Monday, February 05, 2007
New Dog Swag
In the mean time, what I really should be doing is continuing on the house-chore theme since I am evidently on a roll but I figured I'd reward myself for being so unusually productive this weekend with a little crafty time-out.
Hot off the workshop table, behold the collar and leash set:
I am so, SO thinking this is just the cutest dog swag yet because I adore the fabric, (doesn't it remind you of maXimo?) but I also think it may be a little on the girlie side for my favorite canine boy. It seems like a summer ensemble to me, though, so I'll have plenty of time to ponder its' boy dog appropriateness while I wait for either warmer weather or a little greyhound girlie to love :)
Labels: dog stuff
Thursday, February 01, 2007
Yes, TV Rules My World
#1. A -freakin-men about the Top Chef result. I mean really. If that stupid, ridiculous Marcel would have won, I would have seriously lost my mind. Mr. "I'm best at avante-garde molecular gastronomy." Meaning: "I'm an expert at passing off other peoples ideas as my own and then claiming to be the expert." Rip-off little bitch. And he's on The View as I type, thanks to Rosie dubbing him as "her favorite on the show". Puhleeze. How is that even possible? He was one of the most annoying people ever to get on TV.
#2. Did you watch Top Design? Um, hello? Could Todd Oldham be ANY worse as a host? Seriously. I had high hopes that Bravo's incarnation of the Design Star theme would be, at the very least, slightly less cheesy and more watchable, but I almost had to turn it off after two seconds of him starting to speak. It was as bad and as ill-spoken as a DubYa speech. (OK, not quite that bad, but hey, it's supposed to be entertainment.) And those teeth? Hello cosmetic dentistry? On the bright side, Jonathan Adler seems like he is going to be hilariously funny, but more of him and less of those sour bitch-tart chicks, please.
So, now that I have that off my chest I can tell you about our What's For Dinner Wednesday selection.
Fragrant Beef Curry with Rice
Simple and delicious, although I didn't really follow the recipe that closely. Because who ever heard of a curry recipe without coconut milk? Substituting ground cinnamon for stick and omitting the (weird seeming, and shockingly absent from my spice shelf anyway) whole cloves, I pulled it off without having to go to the grocery store, which is quite an accomplishment in my world. (Why I don't have clove in my pantry is another issue entirely because, hello? Molasses cookies?) Plus it was doable in one pot which suits me just fine.
I don't think I've made a curry with beef before, so that was a nice change and it was good and spicy (maybe because I added a can of extra hot Rotel instead of fresh tomatos?) which was just the ticket for a cozy winter evening.